Is there a Catholic view on Brexit? Pope Francis and friends seem to think so.
It is, as you might have predicted, all about climate change and modern slavery. We need supranational authorities, they are telling us, to combat the prevailing evils of the modern world and to avoid a recurrence of the devastating wars of the last century.
The Pontifical Institute for Social Sciences held an international conference charmingly titled: ‘Nation, State, Nation-State.’ (Pontifical Institutes have been very busy of late.) Its message was little short of apocalyptic: “The world is facing today a growing threat of nationalist revival. Exclusivist national ideology leads to mutual rejection and enduring conflicts.” (But then, apocalyptic announcements are flavour of the month just now, especially from the lips of babes and sucklings)
In a recent address Bergoglio adopted the opaque language which characterises these people. We need, he claimed, “to move history by re-launching multilateralism, which is opposed both to new nationalistic pressures and to hegemonic politics.”
QED: Nation states bad; EU good. The emotional appeal was provided by Francis; but the script was by Walter Kasper.
All this, of course, is to miss the historical point. The destructive agent which stalked Europe in the last two centuries was not nationalism, but the ghost of the Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon and Hitler were not patriots. They were egomaniacs striving to inherit the mantle* of Charlemagne. They strove to establish a European Union of their very own.
And the patriotic British strove to defeat them.
*strictly speaking the Crown.
Though the crown of the Holy Roman Empire was tenaciously retained in the Hofburg, Wilhelm II demanded it, and when refused had a copy made for himself. Napoleon copied more of the regalia: the crown and the two scepters. (The scepters can be seen in Ingres’ famous painting, based on God the Father in van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece.)